In Slate's Walking Dead TV Club, Chris Kirk will IM each week with a different fan of The Walking Dead. This week, he discusses “Walk With Me” with Slate video producer Chris Wade.
Kirk: Wow! The Walking Dead has been a headache in the past. But there’s no doubt it’s making headway. I don’t think anyone can argue this season isn’t headed in the right direction.
Wade: Are you finished?
Kirk: Right. To business. ”Walk with Me” picks up where we left off with Andrea and her mysterious, sword-spinning companion, Michonne: They’re out in the wild, looking for a place where flu-stricken Andrea can recover. One random helicopter crash later, they find themselves in such a place — a survivor stronghold managed by a charismatic boss known only as “the Governor.” The episode is all about their orientation in this community and its enigmatic leader. Rick’s stubble doesn’t even make an appearance. Chris W., was it good without him?
Wade: Andrea doesn’t have much to offer, but focusing away from Rick’s group keeps the show moving. If this season is anything like Season 2, we’re in store for two more episodes of Rick’s group being moody and fretting over Lori’s pregnancy, with yet another episode devoted to the birth itself. At least this season, Andrea’s side plot could break that up and hold us over until the two plots intersect.
Kirk: The Governor is keeping things interesting in a way that ripping faces off zombies doesn’t. He seems like a pretty reasonable guy, at first. He’s an assertive, level-headed leader, and his people seem better off than anyone we’ve seen since Rick woke up in a world full of zombies. But that characterization crumbles when we see him and his top thugs massacre a group of stranded soldiers, apparently to steal their weapons and supplies. This I don’t get. Wouldn’t the Governor want more soldiers manning the walls back at home base?
Wade: Like any good charismatic-but-psychotic leader, the Governor wants to remove threats to his authority while maintaining a sense of fear and dependency in his subjects. A bunch of soldiers could upset the power dynamic in his village.
Kirk: I knew there was something sour about the Governor as soon as I saw Merle acting as his right-hand man. Then again, Merle seems to have softened a bit. He’s doesn’t seem as much of a raving, racist bigot as he was when Rick chained him to a rooftop and accidentally left him as zombie food back in Atlanta.
Wade: I guess cutting off your own hand and almost dying will even your keel a little bit. The moderation of Merle allows him to integrate with his new community a little better, but it also removes the fun of having a total wildcard crazy guy around.
Kirk: I wouldn’t worry about that. Not with the Governor spending his nights staring at a collection of tanked heads like he’s glued to a big-screen TV. I half-expected the heads to channel Futurama and start talking. It’s clear that a psychopath lurks behind the Governor’s soft-spoken exterior. And he’s not crazy in the same way Rick calmly putting a machete in somebody’s head is crazy. Rick is a hardened cynic, but the Governor is flat out of his mind.
Wade: Here's how I see this unfolding. Rick and the gang eventually find the Governor’s stronghold. They gradually piece together that the man is nuts. Then the big question is this: Is it OK that the Governor is a murderous nut as long as he keeps his people safe?
Kirk: Well, what would you do? Face the zombies or try your luck with the psychotic, coldblooded madman who can protect you from them?
Wade: I want to think I’d be good and go it alone. In my heart I know I'd submit to an evil dictatorship that kept me safe. There’s a deeper issue here, about moral strength in the face of hardship.
Kirk: The Walking Dead has touched on this subject before, in the Shane vs. Rick era. Would you rather be immoral, subjugated, and alive? Or noble, free, and (un)dead? That question is an opportunity for some serious philosophical drama.
Wade: The Walking Dead has such a tendency to squander its own potential, though! I’m afraid it may never flesh that drama out.
Kirk: Now who’s making stupid puns?
Wade: Good night.
Tomorrow: What Slate commenters and critics around the Web thought of this episode.